HOUSTON — Geez! I go away on a quick, five-day vacation and when I return … the Pirates have a whole new catching combo, Evan Meek is out of action for who knows how long, Jose Ascanio is still a Bucco (sort of) and Penn State-Pitt is back.
First off, the big news: PSU nets a couple gimmie games in 2016 and ’17. Nice! I know this will be billed as the return of a “rivalry” and all, but it’s front-page news only in Western Pa. and a few other spots around the state. Nationally, it’s no big deal — certainly not on par with Alabama-Auburn or Michigan-Ohio State. Penn State and Pitt had some great games in the 1970s and ’80s, but that’s really about it. There’s no question (or is there) that JoePa will no longer be coaching the Nits when the teams meet in 2016. But how many more head coaching changes will Pitt have gone through by then?
»»» OK, back to baseball. Ascanio today cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis. Show of hands, who’s surprised? Um, no one? Me neither.
»»» Lefty reliever Joe Beimel (elbow) threw a 20-pitch bullpen today, all fastballs. It was his first time throwing off a mound since he went on the DL.
»»» Infielder Josh Harrison will test his sore right oblique by running and throwing during batting practice. He’s still not cleared to swing a bat.
»»» Five college players who were drafted last week — outfielder Taylor Lewis (10th round, Maine), right-hander Matt Benedict (30th round, Western Carolina), catcher Derek Trent (31st, East Tennessee State) and infielders Brian Sharp (24th, California Baptist) and Kirk singer (29th, Long Beach State) have signed contracts. They all were assigned to short-season State College.
»»» Jameson Taillon has had two of his first nine starts at Low-A West Virginia suspended due to lousy weather.
»»» The Astros, whose 4.69 team ERA is the second-worst in the majors, today fired pitching coach Brad Arnsberg. Doug Brocail is the interim pitching coach.
Lineups for tonight’s game:
Pirates (32-33) — 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Ronny Cedeno ss, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Neil Walker 2b, 5. Garrett Jones rf, 6. Lyle Overbay 1b, 6. Mike McKenry, 7. Brandon Wood 3b, 8. , 9. Jeff Karstens rhp (3-4, 2.94)
Astros (25-42) — 1. Michael Bourn cf, 2. Clint Barmes ss, 3. Hunter Pence rf, 4. Carlos Lee lf, 5. Jeff Keppinger 2b, 6. Brett Wallace 1b, 7. Chris Johnson 3b, 8. Carlos Corporan c, 9. Bud Norris rhp (4-4, 3.67)